The Wadden Sea is a natural area of global importance shared by three countries and surrounded by a significant population. Key threats include fishery, industrial facilities, harbours and maritime traffic, residential and tourism development and climate change. It is therefore imperative to ensure that the protection and conservation of the Wadden Sea is an important feature of the planning and regulation of use.
The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has managed and protected this valuable ecosystem since 1978. Today, almost the entire Wadden Sea coast is protected as national parks and nature reserves. The management system is a combination of the national management systems and the trilateral Wadden Sea Plan (WSP) implemented by the responsible authorities.
Wadden Sea Plan (WSP)
The Trilateral Wadden Sea Plan (WSP) is the common policy and management plan for the protection and sustainable management of the Wadden Sea Area. It is also the management plan for the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site and thus the foundation for preserving its Outstanding Universal Value. Adopted in 1997 (Stade Declaration) and updated in 2010 (Sylt Declaration), the WSP includes the Cooperation’s common vision, principles, policies and constitutes a framework for measures.
A unique and basic feature of the Wadden Sea Plan is that it aims to conserve the full scale of habitats that belong to a natural and dynamic Wadden Sea. Each of these habitats, for which common trilateral targets have been adopted, needs a certain quality (natural dynamics, absence of anthropogenic disturbance, absence of pollution), which can be reached by proper management of the area.
The overall aim of the WSP is to implement the Cooperation’s objectives as laid down in the Joint Declaration: the preservation of the natural ecosystem, its functions and characteristic biodiversity, the resilience to climate change and other impacts, maintenance of the landscape and cultural heritage, sustainable use as defined by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the EU Habitats Directive, and public support for the protection of the Wadden Sea.
National protection and management
The Danish Wadden Sea is protected through comprehensive provisions of the Statutory Order on the Wadden Sea Nature and Wildlife Reserve, municipal planning and administration of the international protection areas in the Wadden Sea region. In 2010, the Danish Wadden Sea National Park was established. It is responsible for the implementation of the National Park Plan, which contains guidelines and objectives for the National Park’s nature, landscape and cultural heritage values.
In Germany, the coastal federal states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein are in charge of the implementation of the Federal Nature Conservation Act which sets the framework for establishing nature reserves and national parks. The World Heritage Site includes three national parks: the National Park Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer (established in 1985), the National Park Hamburgisches Wattenmeer (established in 1990) and the National Park Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer (established in 1986). The main objectives of the national parks are to protect the Wadden Sea and to allow natural processes to take place with a minimum degree of disturbances and other detrimental effects of human activities. Each national park is protected under a National Park Act by nature protection law of the respective federal state. The three national park authorities are responsible for the implementation of the respective legislation and management of the site.
In the Netherlands, protection combines a unique national physical planning approach, the Key Planning Decision Wadden Sea, 3rd Policy Document Wadden Sea (PKB, since 1980), with a designation of the Wadden Sea under the Nature Conservation Act 1998, supported by additional designation such as the Flora and Fauna Act. Together with the Ecological Main Structure (EHS), they form the basis for protection and management of the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. The PKB defines the overall objectives of conservation, management and use of the Wadden Sea and is binding for all state, regional and local authorities.
The European Union legislation in the field of the environment is of specific significance for the Wadden Sea and has increased in importance during the past two decades. Of the comprehensive list of environmental legislation, the Birds and Habitats Directives, forming the Natura 2000 network, and the Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive are the most relevant ones
The Wadden Sea is covered by a number of instruments of international law. The 1972 World Heritage Convention forms the basis of all World Heritage-related activities concerning the Wadden Sea. Moreover, a number of other multilateral environmental agreements concluded under the auspices of the United Nations also apply: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and its daughter Agreements, i.e. the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Waterbirds (AEWA), the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS), and Agreement on the Conservation of Seals in the Wadden Sea, for which CWSS provides secretariat services. The Ramsar Convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance), the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) are also of relevance for the Wadden Sea.